A lot Can Change in 10 Years: My Birthday Reflections

It’s my birthday in a couple of days. I will be a whopping 38 years old. Is it weird that I’m excited for the big 4-0 coming in a couple of years? I think it’s because I see more growth ahead. I figured this out when I looked at myself 10 years ago in comparison to where I am today. Then I looked at 10 years before that and 10 years before that…wow! So much can change. So much can get better. Interested in my 10 year milestones? I sure hope it encourages you to keep growing and to keep loving and to never give up. It can all be redeemed.

Age 8

IMG_1184I loved to write stories and draw pictures on printer paper from my Grandma’s office with my baby brother. To play with Barbie dolls on Saturday mornings with my younger sister. And dress up in pretty clothes and make up from my mom’s endless supply.

I missed my dad but would start a 4 year journey after my mom’s remarriage of only seeing my father once or twice a year. Those 2-week-long trips to Lake Tahoe did my heart much good. So when my mom moved us back up the Inland Empire from San Diego and met my stepdad, my father gave up the chase for my mother and took a step back on his parenting for another 8 years while my step-dad took us in,  provided us a home, stable school and clothes. We needed that. We did. But he had a temper and I never really felt truly loved by him. I always felt like I had to earn his love and was never quite good enough. I doubt he meant to make me feel this way. But he did. And oh how much I wanted him to love and approve of me. In those times he did show, it meant so much.

And these relationships with my fathers set the stage for so much struggle in my life in my view of men and myself as a person. This perpetual chase for my fathers’ love and approval through the attention of boys.  I did not know my Father in heaven yet…but I would soon…soon I’d be singing praises at the local Baptist church and asking Jesus into my heart, the beginning seed of redemption for my life.

Age 18


At my friend Melanie’s wedding with my high school friends within a year of us graduating high school. Don’t let the smile fool you. I was a wreck.

Fast forward 10 years. I’m 18 years old. I’m depressed, angry, eager to grow but so lost at the same time still, seeking my value and worth in the attention of young men. My mother and step-father had divorced a year or two before after 8 years of marriage. I still bore the emotional wounds of his hurtful adjectives on my heart as well as emptiness from my own rebellion against him and I was still not over getting recently dumped by my first love who I gave everything to at the age of 15 on a cold, January night when I pushed the protective arms of Jesus aside and said yes to the velvet hands of the world.

So now high school graduation had passed and I needed a savior again. My father took me in to his home still two counties away, helped me get a driver’s license, and got me enrolled at the local community college to start my prerequisites for dental hygiene school. This was my one year of cleansing myself from my past before moving forward with my life. I took 12-15 units a semester, had no job, but sat at my dad’s kitchen island drinking multiple glasses of espresso, studying, writing poetry, reading books, and listening to all the melancholy rock ballads I could find that could tap into the core of my pain I didn’t know how to numb.

This phase would not last long, however. At the core of me, I still believed I needed alcohol and drugs to have a good time and I would soon head right into that lifestyle I had dabbled in before.  I believed this lifestyle my stepdad tried to stop me from living was ultimately fulfilling, made life worth living, and could be done while still getting an education. My real father was good to me, and I cherish the memories I had in his home during my college years. But he trusted me too much without knowing entirely all that I was doing, especially the early years of college.  So I balanced my partying and studying through college, eventually making money by waiting tables, tutoring, and copywriting– racked up a couple of degrees, a teaching credential, and a collection of baggage I’d take to the cross again 10 years later after my 13 year hiatus I began in 1995.

Age 28

The day before my 28th birthday, I published a blog post that would prompt a colleague of mine named Kelley to walk into my classroom at Oceanside High School with a cup of Starbucks and a card with a hundred-dollar bill inside for some tires I needed and a note that said, “everything I have belongs to the Lord. And he wanted you to have this.” Everything in my life changed from that point on.

I had been teaching for 5 years, calmed down from my wild college years and was living with my boyfriend of 6 years and our 8-month-old son. I no longer partied anymore, and in the quietness of my more clean life,  and a temporary peace, I had ironically been dealing with a returned sense of emptiness and purposelessness for the last couple of years which had led us to a 4 month break up two-years prior, then back together, then with a child I believed would finally lead me to feel good about who I was at my core. But a number of stresses lead me to vent on that blog and Kelley’s note was all I needed.

Within two weeks I was blogging about returning to church again, and a month later on the very day I pushed Jesus away in 1995, I decided to return to him–not knowing it was the same date until a few months later. But it was 13 years to the day.

By April, my son’s father and I had broken up again. This time for good. He didn’t want to marry a “Christian” when I told him we needed to marry for me to stay under his roof. I loved him. And after 6 years of being together despite the short break up 2 years prior. I didn’t think it was much to ask for given my new faith.

The rejection was difficult to bear. I was angry, devastated, confused. But I knew one thing. God was alive in my life and I could not give him up to return to where I was. I was not going back.

I moved in temporarily with my sister and by the end of summer the following year, I was living with my father again. He gave me a place rent free. Helped me discipline my son. And comforted me during that pivotal transition in my life as I tried to find myself again outside of a man’s affection. I’m so glad to have that time with my daddy during that time. I need him. I had no idea that he would die tragically 3 years later when I would be pregnant with my second son, leaving me with just 13 years of knowing him well to redeem those 13 years I didn’t after his divorce from my mom. 13 precious years. That is what I would get.

Age 38

IMG_5571It’s been another ten years. I’m not going to say the story is over. God still isn’t done with me yet…not by far. But God is good.

I am happily married to a man who loves Jesus as much as I do, who puts his arm around me at church every Sunday. with 4 beautiful children under the age of 10. He makes a wonderful step father to my 10-year-old son who our own three children love and admire as well. Our marriage itself has been a testimony. Today, we own a home in an older neighborhood in North County, San Diego. Its our first home and we love it. It has a big back yard with lots of trees. We will be adding on to it soon.

After a 13-year-career as an English teacher, I am on a leave-of-absence, now working side-by-side with my husband on our small business from home so I can be more involved in my children’s lives. I take them to school, I pick them up, I take them to doctor’s visits during the day rather than squeeze them in at 4:30 while still wearing my work shoes and a bag of papers to grade in the waiting room. I take them to the park in street clothes and push them on the swings without feeling a need to rush home and squeeze in all my other duties. I don’t want to go back to teaching anytime soon.

I also have this growing blog, a published children’s book about Jesus, and a growing marriage ministry my husband and I lead. These projects are passion projects that help me make my footprint in the world.

Most importantly– I am ten years in my relationship with my creator and God. He continues to teach me and love me. In him I have purpose, joy, and peace in a world that tells me I have no purpose, tries to rob me of my joy and entice me with temporary happiness in trivial things that ultimately leave me empty; it gives me peace in a world full of war and pain. He has redeemed all the previous decades of my life and showed me how he uses it in my life and others for good and not for disaster.

Don’t get me wrong, as I said before–the story isn’t over. God is still working hard on me. In the last 10 years I’ve been broken up, lost my job, found a new job 45 minutes away, married quickly, had a miscarriage, supported my husband through unemployment and full-time college, helped him start and grow a business, mourned the death of my father and my grandmother, had three more children (all three very sick within the first 3 weeks of life), moved three times, supported my husband through cancer, quit my safe job of 13 years to come home…God.Has.Used.It.All. I even reconnected with my stepfather and we BOTH apologized for our wrongs against each other. It was so freeing.

But I’ve still got some daddy issues that come out in my own marriage–my husband’s approval of me I often hold up more important than anything else, even God. So I’m learning still to cast my idols at the foot of the cross every day. God has done much to help me grow in my faith, my joy ,and sense of purpose so I don’t doubt that in 10 more years, I will have another testimony. Or in my case, God also likes the number 13, the number of a completion. He’s a poet that way.

There is so much more I could say, but I’ll save that for my future memoir one day. Maybe I’ll have that started when I’m 48. 🙂







fighingIn my 11th grade American Literature class, my students and I started talking about this cycle of cruelty among the characters in the novella, particularly the villain and his wife. From our analysis of Of Mice and Men, we decided Steinbeck argued that cruelty can be a reaction to fear or loneliness. We shared some of our won experiences where we had seen others act cruelly to others due to fear or loneliness and even looked at our own actions. I couldn’t help but remember a high school acquaintance whose name I will change to David who was cruel to another kid and wondered about all the possible causes for his rage. I’m still haunted by my own cruelty for not doing anything to stop what I had seen or help. We all spent about 30 minutes writing about an experience. I shared my story later with them during our readings:

It was an unusually hot day in May my junior year in high school after a late Spring storm’s winds and thunder had electrified the valley before rampaging on to the East. David was going to fight another guy that day. Big, tough David with reddish hair and tattoos who worked out and drank beer and got drunk and liked to fight.

Who the other guy was I did not know. But the rumor hummed around that they were meeting at Beryl Park after school. And that is all I or the other teens at Alta Loma High School needed to know.

We all piled into our friends cars and blared out Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails from our radio speakers, pumped for the entertainment of plows and punches, laughing and shouting excitedly for the coming show: thirsty.

We all sat on our tailgates in the parking lot. A collection of used Jeeps and Bugs, lifted F-150’s and Tacomas, and shiny new Ford Mustangs lined with teens in Doc Martins and baggy jeans–white kids with too much time, waiting for the guy to show up whom David was going to fight.

But the guy didn’t show.
And David was ready to fight.
Fight him.
Fight someone.
Fight anyone.

He needed to release that angry beast raging inside of him. Angry at who or what, I don’t know. His father perhaps–a lion of his own past who called him stupid or weak? A mother who left him for her drugs two days before his 5th birthday? Maybe a child-molesting uncle? Or a long-legged girl who broke his heart his sophomore year?

We thought it was time to go, disappointed, heads shaking and downcast, eyes parched for the sight of blood, ears for the thud of punches and the fumbling of legs over shoulders and backs. Maybe because the violence could somehow make us feel alive.

But just as we started to pack up to leave, David started to roar; roar like a hungry lion. Colors poured out of him—black and red and purple, pouring from his mouth and his pores and his eyes.

We all turned and saw and knew. Something crazy was going to happen. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms delightfully sprang up in response.

And so he charged at some random guy there. Some guy just like me or him or her—smoking a cigarette and wearing a wife-beater and unlaced Vans. He sat there just like the others–there to watch. The guy had no idea he would be the one David would fight as we all watched with mouths agape. And he did not have time to prepare, as he laid on the hood of his car, lighting another cigarette with the burning tip of the first, only to look up to hear the noise of David’s roar and see him charging after him.

David beat the $#!% out of that kid. Beat him to a bloody pulp—missing teeth, a gash across his brow, eyes swollen immediately. He left that boy unconscious on the hot, black asphalt that day in May of 1996.

And everyone backed away, disturbed by the width and depth and height of David’s anger, not wanting to be next; and recognizing the severity of what just happened, they felt that surge of fear of cops and sirens, and quickly hopped into their cars, squealing away.

I stood there watching the kid moan on the rough parking lot asphalt, stagger up and stumble back down with eyes of confusion—no doubt wondering what happened.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

He didn’t answer–just laid there and wiped the blood from his lip, eyes wet with tears, and looked around, studying at us through murky orbs, as if he were trying to decide if he was really seeing us.

And then I just walked home with my friends: a cruel act of silence. I left him isolated and abandoned because I was afraid of what I saw. And perhaps because I was afraid of that evil part of me in the layers of my kind shell that liked the entertainment. I wanted to push his bloody image away from me at any expense. Not realizing that the image of him left alone in that park would haunt me the rest of my life.

I wonder if this experience hardened him. Made him angry and cruel. Just like David.


Broken Idols and a Quest for Self-Worth: a love story

My senior year in high school, I made it my mission to get Bryan Parker (name changed) to fall in love with me. No I take that back. To fall BACK in love with me. Admitting that asks for a back story I’m not entirely willing to share or else write an entire novel instead of a 750 word blog and a mess of baggage that would make a psychotherapist squirm in his chair with delight, but its true.

But looking at the whole story almost 20 years later, I realize now that this mission was much more than just gaining Bryan’s heart back. This mission was about forgiving myself. About proving my stepfather wrong. And about making myself worthy of love. It was a selfish quest built on low self-esteem, a distorted self-image, and a lack of identity and self-worth.


My senior photo–on a mission for self-worth

He was my first love my sophomore year. 5’11, quiet, with dark brown hair, blue eyes, a few freckles on his slightly turned up nose. He often wore blue-checkered, collared shirts and flannels with jeans. I still remember the way he looked walking through the halls—head down, a mop of thick dark hair hanging over his brows, his arms crossed, and his large black pack-pack filled with honors level coursework hung over his shoulder. He loved science, art, and cars. I gave him my heart, my soul, my everything.

And my stepdad did not approve. His anger simmered and boiled over and exploded the summer between my sophomore and junior year when all the truth about our relationship had been uncovered.

Fast forward to December of my junior year in high school—after a forced break up, a transfer to another school, no knowledge of my phone number, and no contact with my old friends or old life—my stepfather left our home forever and I came back to my old high school in Alta Loma, an affluent campus at the foothills of Cucamonga Peak, excited to be back and talk to him again.

That is until I found out that Bryan had hooked up with someone else while I was away. One of my sisters friends.  I felt so cheap. He couldn’t make it 6 months without having to find someone new? Didn’t he love me the way I had loved him? Didn’t what we have mean anything to him? And so in an impulsive anger, I got back at him by hooking up with his best friend.

And I regretted it immediately.

Of course, he was mad. He refused to talk to me. Ignored me the rest of my junior year. It was probably for the best. I had to really emotionally heal from all the anger inside of me. I was angry at my stepdad, myself, him, and the world. But alas, the details of my junior year in high school is for another story. This is about getting Bryan back.

So the summer after junior year, I woke up one sunny morning in a campground in Santa Maria and looked out at the big blue sky, listening to the lazy beats of Sublime playing from my best friend Lisa’s car stereo, and I decided I was no longer angry anymore. I could smile genuinely again. I had friends and fun life away from the strict rules of my stepfather and the misery of that angry junior year. But one thing was missing in my mind. I couldn’t truly have made it, until I got Bryan back.

I don’t really remember the details of the strategies or the sequence of events and how I did it. But I got pretty far. Smiles and notes. Flirtatious hello’s and invitations to come to this event or that event. I had the advantage my senior year of a very active weekend life. My group of girlfriends had developed a great connection with some college-aged friends who lived nearby and were always throwing parties, going to the river, concerts, and clubs. And they liked us. So eventually, Bryan accepted. And I always made sure I looked amazing when he would come. This was probably right after the new year of 1997.

Eventually we were walking to class together, and even kissing again. We in many ways my senior year, had the all the experiences I had only wished to have had with him when we were together under my stepdad’s reign. But this time I don’t think we used the term “boyfriend and girlfriend.” Still–I wasn’t going to push it. I just needed to hear those 3 special words.

I got close. I remember him telling me that he liked the way I dressed better than my friends. That he liked the way I danced better than others. I remember him saying sweet words like “you are so cute.” We even went to prom together. I think it was at prom that I felt that I had finally made it. I was at prom wearing a stunning silver sequenced floor length gown with a peak-a-boo halter and my hair up in curls with the love of my life who looked like Jake Guillinhall on the red carpet. My stepdad could bite it, I thought. Maybe I was still angry at him, at least.

But then something changed.

Within a couple of weeks, after I had given Bryan my book of poetry I had basically written all about him and other feelings from my life, he found pages in the book that had been torn out. I had torn them out because I messed up my handwriting, scribbled too much out and didn’t want it to mess up the beauty of my book. But he didn’t see it that way. He started getting paranoid, thinking that I must have been writing about other guys. He called me names: vindictive, liar, manipulative. I didn’t get it. I begged him to believe that he was my one and only. But he just couldn’t get passed it. In the end, I think it was all rooted in his inability to forgive me for my real transgression the year before.

One rainy day in May, he wrote me a note. It said, I hate you too much to be your boyfriend. But I love you too much to be just friends. All is lost. 

I wrote back, how can I have lost someone, I never truly had?

Still–I asked for one last date, in hopes that somehow it could be amazing enough to change his perspective. I wore my white crocheted sundress and matching white sandals, my hair down and curled, thankful the el Niño rains had dissipated long enough for a brief sensation of spring. In my mind I had played out an entire scene—laughter and joking, holding hands as we walked down the sidewalk.  One long last kiss under a big oak tree and him realizing that he didn’t want to miss any of this. That he was wrong and being silly and that he loved me.

That he would drop me off but then turn around half way, run out from his car and catch me just before I reached my door. The rain would start pouring down from the sky, his hair dripping wet, and his clothing soaked. But he didn’t care. He’d cry out, “Theresa! I love you! You are the only one I can see my life with!” And then I’d run to him and we’d kiss right there in the rain, its sheets wrapping us in our forgiveness, washing away all of the anger and tears forever. We’d then spend the bright summer frolicking on the sands of Huntington Beach, planning the rest of our lives together.

But he was emotionally gone by the time we had that last date—like someone literally turned off a switch in him. We went out, but he didn’t make eye contact. He didn’t ask questions. We sat awkwardly over our meal listening to the tinking of our spoons against our porcelain bowls and the slurping of our sodas through our straws. It culminated at the Koffee Klatch off of Foothill Blvd. where we talked about our futures. More like only him after I asked the questions, trying to keep the conversation going…to keep the night going. Anything but say goodbye. He talked about college, grad school, and becoming a doctor. He didn’t mention me in those dreams.

He dropped me off around 11 o’clock at my house and I sat in that passenger seat of his father’s white Camaro wanting so bad for him to recognize that this would be the last time he’d see me and that this would make him sad. So I said goodbye. No kiss. No long last hug. Just goodbye. I opened the door slowly, and then closed it–watched him turn the car around out of the parking lot of my apartment complex and drive away. I stared at those red tail lights until they became tiny pinpoints and then dissolved into the darkness of the night. He never did turn around. I stood there a very long time under the silent black sky. Then went inside and cried myself to sleep.

I wish I could say that it was good riddance. That I knew I had done nothing wrong and chalked his behavior up to a crazy, paranoid boy. But I didn’t. I was devastated. I sunk into a deep depression. Graduation came and went. I walked. But he was not there to give me flowers or a lei under the misty, twilight sky. After that June night, I spiraled through a series of self-destructive and self-hating actions that summer after senior year while the rest of my friends began preparing for college. My mission had failed. And he saw me the same way I felt  my stepdad saw me: worthless. The first three months were the hardest, darkest of my life.  I essentially became what I thought I was.

But in an upside down and twisted version of the summer revelation I had the prior year, the August after I graduated high school, I woke up around 4 P.M one late August afternoon with no job to go to and after a night of binge drinking. I looked in the mirror and knew I had to get out or I’d never get out of the pit I had put myself in. I wanted to be happy again. But I couldn’t if I stayed in that town where everything reminded me of them. Of Bryan. Of my stepdad—The men I both loved and hated. The ones I spent so much energy trying to get to love me for me– two opposing sides of the same coin I had hoped to use to redeem my self-worth.

In desperation, I called my real dad up—the dad I saw only during the summer from ages 8-12 and then one weekend a month from thereafter. He invited me to move to San Diego and move in with him. I could go to college out there and start a new life.

So I did. I packed up my stuff on my mom’s birthday, kissed my brother and sister goodbye and left. I don’t even think I said goodbye to my friends. No goodbye party. No goodbye call even. I think I finally told them I was gone after I had already been there for two weeks. I was over that life. Everything reminded me of him and of the awful person I had become.

That move was the best decision I ever made in my life. I essentially recreated myself, becoming the person who I always wanted to be. I got my driver’s license,  went to Palomar Community College, and graduated with honors and an A.A degree. During that time, I worked as a waitress for 5 years in the evenings and a jet ski resort in the summers in Carlsbad. I transferred to Cal State San Marcos and graduated again with honors and a B.A degree after cocktail waitressing at a local watering hole and trying my skills at editing jobs for a few large companies.  I then enrolled in the credential program and became a teacher, wanting to make a difference in the lives of teenagers who maybe struggled with their identity as much as I had when I was young. I made many friends along the way. Dated. Got a long-term boyfriend who I loved. Traveled through Mexico and Costa Rica, snowboarded on numerous mountains in the West. I lived a great life.

But one thing still haunted me all those years. I still dreamed about Bryan in my sleep. Always a similar story. We see each other after many years. Hearts race. We reunite. And I’d wake up wishing I could just get him out of my head and my heart. I didn’t want to dream about him. Finally at the age of 25, after I confessed to my mom my haunting dreams, she told me that sometimes, people can develop “soul ties” with their first loves they were intimate with. Makes sense when God says he will make the two become one. And that perhaps that was the issue. She prayed over me to cut the ties and release me. I know it sounds crazy, but the craziest part about it all is that it worked. I no longer dreamed of him. I was free to finally move forward with my life 100%. And that even meant forgiving my stepdad for all he had done to hurt me. And later on realize, I too had done much to hurt him. My eyes were opened.

It’s been 11 years since my mother cut that soul tie between Bryan and I, and just the other day, his profile picture showed up in my Facebook feed as a suggestion for a friend. My heart did not skip a beat. It was like looking at any old picture of a friend from long ago. Somebody I used to know, as the Gotye song goes. But I did actually laugh a little because there was a girl in the picture too. And she looked just like me.

Funny thing is, she looked Hispanic too. And this conjured up all sorts of memories of him in a light I hadn’t really seen before. I remember he hated that Hispanic part about me. He was so embarrassed that I was Colombian that he hid that from his own father, who had a confederate flag hanging in his garage. And he hated it when I spoke Spanish, always asking me to stop. I guess he changed too. Twenty years will do that to any of us, I suppose.

All those years in high school, I had built him up in my mind to be so wonderful, believing that if I had him, it meant I was worthy of love. But the truth be told, he was flawed too. He had been the entire time I worshiped him. But I don’t think I saw it because I had elevated him to a position that was meant to save me. And we don’t like our saviors to be tainted.

While this story in many ways is about a love story gone awry–it really is about a love story with myself. How and when do we begin to love ourselves? When should we give our selves away and what are the consequences  when do? Today, I don’t need him or my stepdad or anyone other than God to define my self-worth. To do so makes them idols and makes our self-worth only as strong as the person we build our self-worth upon. When they fall or fail, we do too. I did. And as I look at my own amazing husband now, and our four beautiful children, I thank God that somehow he gave me the strength to pick up the pieces of that shattered dream and reform it into something so much better than I ever could have had with Bryan. I just didn’t know it then. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. But thankfully, I’m not in the shadows, looking back at the light.

Life as a Speckled Bird: a powerful memoir about a woman’s quest for independence and love

Theresa Hemsath holds the copy of the memoir Life as a Speckled BirdI am so excited to announce that my very first client’s memoir is officially published! I started working with this wise woman last year, interviewing her about her life, in order to pull together the stories from hers. As an elderly woman approaching the end of her life, she is no doubt like many people in the world–looking back at her life and wanting to put in perspective, and determining its purpose in the big scheme of eternity.

I whole-heartedly love memoirs myself because they are real. Some of my favorites include Alcohol: A Love Story,  Hypocrite in a Poofy White Dress, and Running in the Family. These are real stories about real people. I have certainly learned from these memoirs and especially from interviewing this woman that we do not need fiction to have a good story.

the back cover of Life as a Speckled Bird is Intriguing! It took a few weeks of interviews to pull all her stories together, but let me tell you–I laughed and I cried, and I wept with this woman as I walked in her shoes during those one-hour interviews during the Fall of 2014. When it was all over, I thanked her for her wisdom and her desire to take the bitterness and pain in her life and use it for good–to teach and to warn others about how family dysfunction can affect people their entire lives. Her stories made me want to go home and cling to my children and to my husband and speak nothing but hope and love into their ears. It made me look at my childhood baggage and how I could use it for good.

While her book is not published for the public, but for her friends and family–the 50 people who will read this book and their own friends and family members will have difficult time putting it down.It will be an amazing record/imprint for her children, grandchildren, and their future generations.

If you are thinking about your own life and wanting to get it down, no matter what your age, I highly suggest writing your memoirs now while your memory is still good and the individual stories don’t fade or merge with others. I work for an awesome Memoir Writing company called The Sound of Your Voice Memoir which offers workshops on how to write your own memoir,  but also offers help in writing yours along with some amazing memoir packages, so you can have a numerous copies to give to your friends and family.

Do you write your memoirs? If you blog them, I’d love to read some. Share some of your blog links to memoirs you have written in the comments below as well as any questions about memoir writing. I’d be happy to give you some tips.  I myself have written a few memoirs from my life. Rather than putting it together as one long story, right now, my memoirs are smaller stories about different episodes of my life. I do hope and plan to one day thread them all together into one book.

If you are thinking about writing your own or want to improve your writing craft, I highly recommend this classic book that most writers will swear by–On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.

This book has been monumental in my own craft as a writer. You will enjoy it too. The writer is entertaining as he is informative. I use an affiliate link here. So if you choose to buy it on Amazon with my link, you will not be paying extra. But Amazon shares with me some change from their profits to support my blog.

Hold: 5 Minute Friday

By Soul Riser. Used with permission. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

By Soul Riser. Used with permission. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

There are a few moments from my life, that I wish I could hold forever. I wish I could capture them into a snow globe and place them on a shelf for me to pick up and hold again and again the rest of my life…looking into the moment…and seeing it, experiencing it all over again.

Those moments when my husband seems to just get me…to understand when I am overwhelmed with the duties of wife, and mother, and teacher, and housekeeper, and friend, and sister, and daughter…when he walks by and just holds me. A long and strong hold. And he doesn’t let go until I do.

That moment that started just a few days ago, when my 2-year-old, Benjamin said he wanted to pray too during our nightly family bedtime prayer. And then he closed his eyes real tight and murmured faintly,

“nanananana…..nananananana….daddy…. and KK….nanananana and JJ….and Mommy.”

And I knew he was thanking God for our family.

Holding Kanan, my oldest,  in the Nicu for the first time after a 24-hour-quarantine from him due to my high fever–I was a first time mom and amazed and exhilarated by this little life I had created with this big mop of long blonde hair on his head and piercing blue eyes. I missed him terribly after carrying him in my own body for 9 months, only to have him taken from me for 24-hours before I had a chance to even hold him. That first moment holding him in the NICU…yes…

I’d hold that moment earlier this week when Jameson, my middle son kissed my belly and said to me,

“I want to take care of Scotland, my baby sister, Mommy” with big, eager eyes and wide smile..his father’s smile.

Those long conversations with my father about life and love and politics over coffee on Saturday mornings on his front porch. His warm hugs afterward, always with sweater covered arms….Left only for me to hold in the fragments of memory, until I see him again in heaven.

My mom’s soft hands on my forehead when I was a girl. Always so comforting when I felt sick or sad. She has the softest hands. And sometimes, even though I’m almost 35 years old, I still want my mom to run her soft hands over my forehead, to hold my hands with her soft hands and soothe me with words of wisdom.

5 Minute Friday is a Blog Club I’ve joined. Kate Montaung, blogger of  Heading Home at KateMontaung.com sends out a word prompt, to which we set the timer for 5 minutes and write on. Come learn more at http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/ .

Whisper: 5 minute Friday Post

Painting by Karl Witkowski--available for reuse with modification.

Paintintg by Karl Witkowski–available for reuse with modification.

As part of 5 Minute Friday, I am supposed to blog for 5 minutes on a word prompt given by the blogger at KateMotaung.com who hosts the writing activity. My routine is to do this on my prep period at work. I set my timer and I go. Timer is set. Here we go:


My babies don’t know how to whisper. Well I take that back. Only in a couple of situations can they whisper. When we read the last page of “Good Night Moon” when it says, “Good night noises, everywhere.” I whisper that line and they love it. They whisper with me with big eyes and big smiles before closing the books and snuggling up in their sheets. It is a warm connection I can have with them before we go to sleep.

This morning, Benjamin woke up happily at 6 AM, calling “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” and tapping his sleeping shoulders.

“Shhhhhhh” Owen kept saying.

But Benny wouldn’t. Benny was ready to get up and doesn’t understand the purpose of using a whisper voice in the wee hours of the morning when everyone is asleep–to speak and connect with us, without the sleeping others hearing.

But later, he rushed to me when I came out of the bathroom where I was discreetly putting on makeup and brushing my teeth, listening to him talk Owen into putting on the Elmos show —

“Mommy!” he called loudly.

“Shhhhhh” I whispered, “We need to whisper. Everyone is asleep.”

He reached up his arms eagerly, showing me he wanted a hug. I bent down and pressed his little body onto my big, 8-month-pregnant belly, and I rocked him.

And then he whispered his favorite phrase in these special moments: “baby Mommy, Mommy baby.”

I love it when he whispers that. I hear, “I love you” in those words. I feel so connected to him in those moments, like an invisible umbilical cord still connects us.

Five-Minute-Friday-4Today as I write this, I sit in the back of this classroom filled with teenagers with special needs. There are 5 teachers in this room with 20 students. These teens with down syndrome and severe learning disabilities, and various physical disabilities as well, clearly look different as they learn to fill out job applications and how to add up grocery receipts, but are so happy and kind and eager to greet me when I come in and ask questions about my belly as they play with their hair or rock in their chairs.  Like children. And I wonder how many other teenagers, whisper when they walk by–closely connecting with their friends nearby but never trying to connect with these people because they are different. Never get close enough to whisper in their ears their secrets or compliments. How many whispering sounds do these people hear when they walk through the halls, without knowing the words?  How many eyes avert away and disconnect?

Whispers…we connect with people we whisper to. How I want all whispers to be out of love, and nothing more.


Reach–at times it feels like grasping for the wind




We reach for what we want…sometimes to find success. And other times only to be disappointed.

I watch my toddlers stand on tippy toes, trying to reach the off limits objects of their desires on counter tops and shelves— scissors, candy, their brother’s Legos, or that glass of milk.

In life…we reach for dreams. We reach for goals. We reach for our desires. Some—to enjoy and hold. Other’s—like grasping for the wind.

My stepmother did not reach my father in time in the warm waters of Maui while they were snorkeliFive-Minute-Friday-4ng. She reached down into the deep waters to drag him out and perform mouth to mouth on the shore. But that night after finally falling asleep, she woke up half conscious to reach for his warm body next to her, only to find a cold pillow.

I reach for that day when I can come home to be with my kids and spend time with them. Right now I feel so disconnected from them since I’ve gone back to teaching. I cry for this dream.

All three of my babies, I have had to have by C-section. All three I wanted to reach out to after they came out, only to have doctors take them away. Two to the NICU. One for an extra hour due to “low blood sugar.” This last baby–my little girl, I pray I can have right away.

In worship, I reach up toward the sky in my feeble attempt to touch my God, looking forward to the day when I no longer have to reach, but will already be in his arms, saved from the challenges of this life, and tears wiped from the pain. When that day comes, nothing else that I have reached for and had or did not have–none of that will matter anymore.

Summer of Love: in memory of…..well, love

Amatuer poems and prose written by Me at various times in my youth, for the different loves, and almost loves in my life.

Freshman year, 1993—-Robert


Just like a feather

from a magnificent bird

was the way you swept through my fingers.

Maybe it was love?

That I don’t know

but something was there

and now it’s gone.

March 1995—Ryan , my first love

Not Long Enough

Words can’t explain it

but do you feel the same?

don’t talk, don’t say a word

I know

I already know

hold me, kiss me, touch me, love me

I gave you my innocence

now take it with care

don’t break it, its fragile

how precious

it’s full of love, wanting to give more

hold me, kiss me, touch me, love me

forever is not long enough.

July 15, 1998

In This Search

In this search for the one with his eyes

the eyes that penetrate through me

the eyes that read me

the eyes I get lost in

the eyes I don’t fear looking into mine

for they’re the eyes that love me

In this search for the one with his hands

the hands that cup my chin

the hands that run through my hair

the hands that with the slightest touch on my skin

fill me with contentment

the hands I don’t fear holding me

for they’re the hands that protect me

In this search for the one with his voice

the voice that alter with emotion

the voice he only lets me hear when we’re alone

the voice that can loves to sing regardless of skill

the voice I don’t fear hearing

for its the voice that makes me smile

the voice I’d know anywhere

In this search for the one with his mind

the mind that ponders

the mind that doesn’t give up

the mind that craves knowledge

the mind I don’t fear helping

for its the mind that helps mine

In this search for the one with his heart

the heart that bleeds

the heart that cries

the heart that loves Jesus

the heart I don’t fear holding

for its that heart that also holds me

In this search for the one with his soul

the soul that is alive

the soul that glows with contentment

the soul that loves my God

the soul I don’t fear knowing

for its the soul that dances with mine

Where do I find who I am searching for?

He can’t be the one I long for

Where do I find the one with all his traits but one?

Where do I find the one who will never stop loving me?

March 25, 1999—Cameron

My Love

The eyes of my love

are warm baths

soothing and comforting.

The lips of my love

are royal pillows

made only for me, the queen.

the hands of my love

are leather

strong and worn

yet they turn to velvet

with the slightest touch on my skin.

The heart of my love

is a furnace

full of warmth and light.

Time is ticking….where are you my love?

 Spring 2001—-Michael and friends


Memories travel like a whisper int the dark

I can still hear the whispers from years ago

In dreams, I see bright light through my eyelids.

Mikey says the scent of Heavenly gives him butterflies

His touch sends tickling fingers down my spine

His lips taste salty sweet

His whispers urge me to stand on top of Big Bear Mountain and sing

Purple sounds like drum and bass

Spring break 1998—Lake Havasu, Arizona—Barbie Matzke falls down in the dirt laughing

hysterically–she thought we were floating on a raft, but we were napping in our tent

we weren’t napping, we were daydreaming.

Santa Ana winds wrap warm blankets between still, cold air

Kaden is a perfect name for a child

My name is Theresa because that’s what everyone calls me

We howled Pink Floyd’s “Two Lost Souls Swimming in a Fish Bowl” late into the night

The small lips of peace and contentment kissed our eyelids as we fell asleep.

His sheets are as white as night.

I’m flying above him now, can he see my wings?

Treese is too passionate for the Average Taurus

but this Taurus’s whispers drive her passions.

Cold blankets make December nights numb.

I’ll have to whisper through the pounding rain for him to hear me.

Quiero que besarte otravez

daffodils in my garden flirt with the sunlight

whispers float through the clouds, through my window, through my mind.


Falling in Love—date written, unknown

I love the butterflies, the dizziness, the warm feeling that spreads over my body when I think of him or talk to him. I love the innocent and naïve infatuation with everything and anything he says or does. I love the random moments when he crosses my mind. I love the fantasies and dreams of laughter, friendship, and romance.

But falling head over heals is such a paradoxical transition isn’t it?







The bitter comes with the uncertainty. The fear of losing what I have yet to call mine. The moments when he doesn’t say something utterly romantic and I fear—oh no, he is over it!! The fear—the fear of loss, the fear of gain, the fear of life changing. The continuous need for reassurance when I hate being that way. But doesn’t falling for someone change us momentarily into these babbling, needy, idiots?
I hate the inability to just sleep, the fear of being played—not believing that this person who seems so perfect at this moment could ever want to leave the attention of all those other women for just me.
The knowledge that this person will by no means be perfect, and the excitement and fear that I could possibly be intimate enough with him to get to know those flaws and grow to love them. 

The things I love and hate about falling in love: the paradoxical hope and fear that somehow through all of this, everything will change.

Yes, falling head over heels is a combination of both











both at the same time, mixing around in my brain and in my stomach. I want the feelings to go away, but at the same time, never want them to leave.

Am I the only one? No….I know this is part of it. This is part of what I have gone through so many times in my life—each time, hoping this one is for real. Each time, disappointed in someway. Each time, swearing to never go through it again. Each time, surprising myself because I still feel like I did the first time I fell for someone—13 years old all over again. So uncertain about where my life is going. So uncertain about who I am or what I really want. So child-like and vulnerable. So stupidly giddy and willing to sacrifice all in the name of some fantasy only Cinderella and The Little Mermaid truly experienced.

I’ve been told to put on my goggles and dive in. Otherwise, how else will I find that prize winning fish?

And so I do—but I don’t dive in

I do a cannon ball.


It’s Raining, it’s Pouring: how to make Colombian hot chocolate

200236712-001My son this morning stared in awe at the wonder before his eyes. Water was falling from the sky and Kanan wanted to know what the heck was going on. His little mouth fell open and he kept pointing out of the car and saying “whats that?” He also did not like my windshield wipers going back and forth until I started moving my right arm in the same motions and saying “wipe” everytime it sprung back to position. He laughed and laughed.

I love the rain. It makes me think of childhood. Here is a link to a little story I wrote a couple of years ago about rain and childhood. I hope you enjoy. 🙂

Oh and after reading the story, and you would like to make this lovely chocolate beverage here is a simple recipe.

Colombian Hot Chocolate

  1. break up 1 block of colombian chocolate (70% cocao)
  2. bring desired amount of milk to a boil (how manycups of chocolate you want will be dependent on the ounces of milk).
  3. Add chocolate chunks into milk
  4. add desired amount of sugar
  5. whisk with a molinillo (a wooden whisker specifically for chocolate)
  6. simmer until melted, whisking as you go
  7. pour into a mug
  8. add one chunk of queso blanco into the center of your hot chocolate and let melt
  9. enjoy!


How To Make Colombian Hot Chocolate

I sit here on this rainy afternoon, smelling the wet cement outside my classroom door, looking down at my hot chocolate sitting in my coffee mug. I take a sip and feel the sugar crystals melting in my mouth and a mild nostalgia takes over me-bittersweet. I am reminded of my youth in San Bernardino County. It was during the year it rained and rained and rained. So many kids hated the rain. But rain always reminds me of my mother’s Colombian hot chocolate-of my brother and sister. Of an innocence and glee for life, which has begun to crust and separate now- like cheap hot chocolate after it sits too long-how I yearn for the chocolate of my youth again.

My mother got huge blocks of Colombian Chocolate from her mother every time she went back home to Bogota to visit our family. Family I have never met and hope to know one day. She took out the block and put it on a cutting board and broke it with a kitchen hammer. Then she poured the bittersweet chunks into a big pot with sugar and milk and boiled it until the chocolate melted and then simmered it for a long time, whisking it with this giant wooden whisker she called a molinillo, letting the happy chemicals in the chocolate saturate the milk. To pass the time, she sent my brother, sister and I outside, bundled up in winter clothes to go play in the rain. We ran around wildly, taking our umbrellas not for protection, but to use as buckets as we filled them up with rain-water flowing down from the drain pipe off our roof and then laughed as we dumped it over our heads. We soaked ourselves clear though our long johns and gleefully shivered. We jumped in the puddles that formed in the streets, laid on our bellies and dared each other to lick the rain off the cement driveway. We played hide and go seek, and between games tilted our heads back, tongues completely out, tasting the semi-sweet, earthy flavor of the sky.

After about 45 minutes, the cold would no longer feel good and my mother knew this, prepared and all. She called out our names and opened up the garage, still warm from the heat of the washer and dryer. She pulled out fresh clothes for us, hot and smelling of Mountain Fresh scented drier sheets. We undressed and changed right there, giggling and telling our mother of our adventures so quickly, I’m surprised she could even make out our words. Then she opened the door leading into the house and handed each of us each a steaming cup of Colombian hot chocolate with at a drop of queso blanco floating in the center. We smelled the sweet aroma, carefully walked to the living room, taking short steps which barely lifted our feet from the carpet, so as not to spill the chocolate. There in the living room awaited a blazing fire in the fireplace, the smell of the burning wood, mixed with the steam of the chocolate, and I sunk easily into the moment-comfort’s womb. The three of us sipped our hot chocolates in silence, and with chocolate mustaches and peace in our eyes, took out our coloring books, and colored right on the brick step of the fireplace. My mother sat on the couch, watching us in silence as well, a satisfied smile on her face. I remember glancing back at her and watching her sip her chocolate drink long and slowly, closing her eyes. I like to imagine, it was in that very moment she was dreaming of her childhood in Los Angeles and the family adventures in Bogota, Colombia-the country where she grew to understand love and family-and where she would gain the wisdom to teach us these things.

My mother doesn’t get Colombian blocks of chocolate anymore. But when I finally get to visit for the first time that country of my blood, I will buy enough to last my lifetime.

My Writings

Okay–some of you all know that I’ve been publishing my writing through a website called Helium, but many of you haven’t. Honestly, anyone can publish their stuff through the site so this is in no way showing off on my part. But what I like about the site is that writers can compete for titles. A few of my pieces are not doing so hot. They are in the middle or in the lower half. However,  a couple of my pieces have done really well and so that is exciting too. And as an added bonus, if magazines or other mediums want to include a piece under a certain topic or title, Helium offers them one of their top rating articles for that title and the writer can get paid. How much have I made so far? Oh probably like 3 dollars. No–please, no pictures or autographs right now. I’m a very rich and important woman. 🙂

Well, if you are ever interested in seeing how my stuff is doing, feel free to check my page out at http://www.helium.com/users/378127

I will also add this link to my blog roll.